Location issues spell trouble for Ross in loss

May 16th, 2021

' seventh start of the season was eerily similar to his third, which is not what the Nationals had hoped for. His outing at Chase Field on Saturday yielded the same result, a Nationals loss, this time by an 11-4 score.

“Location, location, location with Joe today was just a little off,” said manager Dave Martinez. “I thought his tempo was a little off today as well.”

The right-hander tossed just four innings, his shortest outing in 2021. Comparing this performance to his start against the Cardinals on April 19, in both games the righty walked three, struck out five and allowed eight hits. He allowed 10 earned runs to the Cardinals and eight to the D-backs.

“The outing against the Cardinals, I felt pretty good,” said Ross. “I felt like my velo was up, but kind of a similar situation, just missing my location with heaters.” 

These two rough outings lend themselves to comparison, especially considering they mark the only times this season Ross allowed more than two earned runs on a given day.

Of his 86 pitches Saturday, 55 were strikes. He wasn’t walking many batters, he just couldn’t keep the ball down over the plate. To continue the earlier comparison, in the Cardinals start he threw 85 pitches, 57 for strikes.

After the St. Louis game, Ross identified some adjustments that needed to be made, specifically working on not drifting down on the mound and resolving some timing issues. He rebounded with three consecutive solid starts. 

After Saturday’s start, the righty believes these same issues led to his inconsistent fastball, but planned to resolve them with his post-start bullpen session.

“They were being aggressive,” said Ross of the D-backs' offensive attack. “Good hits, obviously, and some that I wish could have done differently. I tried to make an adjustment from there and just work deeper in the game. But then, the fourth inning I kind of gave in a little bit with two outs."

Ross’ outing got off to a rough start almost immediately, as he faced nine batters, giving up three runs in a 24-pitch first inning. The second and third innings allowed him to settle in a bit, allowing just one hit, before things fell apart again in the fourth.

“We thought he settled down a little,” said Martinez after Ross' back-to-back strikeouts to start the fourth. “But then, he hits [Pavin Smith] in the foot. Jim [Hickey, hitting coach] went out there and kind of settled him down. And then, one bad pitch, he gives up a three-run homer.”

That early lead was more than enough for Arizona to keep the Nationals' quiet bats in check.

Washington’s offense struck early, as it has this whole series, scoring a run apiece in the first two innings. However, the Nationals did not record another hit until the seventh inning, when they added a third run on an RBI groundout from Trea Turner. An RBI single from Juan Soto in the ninth inning closed the scoring.

“It’s tough to lose games like that,” said Soto, who accounted for two hits and two RBIs. “We all fight in every at-bat. Every time we go out there, every pitcher tries to do their best. We go out there and give our 100 percent best. It’s frustrating because we know we all went out there and grinded.”